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Potential here for 'explosive growth'
AASU regional researcher Michael Toma speaking to city officials and business owners at Magnolia Manor. - photo by Ross Blair

Reaffirming what several have said before him, AASU Director for the Center for Regional Analysis Michael Toma exclaimed at Magnolia Manor that Bryan County has a strong economic future and should anticipate an "explosive growth in population."

Toma explored that conclusion by giving detailed facts of his research on the county during a power point presentation Monday to Richmond Hill city officials and business leaders in a breakfast meeting that kicked off the city’s celebration of Georgia Cities Week.

Pembroke also kicked off their Georgia Cities Week celebration with an employee's breakfast Monday and a business luncheon Tuesday.

Toma’s presentation included compiled localized data on topics such as home sales, retiree migration, governmental planning and population. Among the reports he pulled from are the recent Economic Diversification Report and the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center’s Georgia Tech population study.

Toma called Georgia Tech’s population projection of a 51 percent increase by 2030 a "very conservative effort" and said the figure may actually be much larger.

He gave a list of reasons in pondering the potential population boom. Some of the 5-6 million tourists that visit Savannah each year consider relocating there. Nearby Richmond Hill receives residual effects from that as it is perceived to be a safer place to live with lower taxes and a superior school system, Toma said. In addition, he spoke of the rising population that comes with being near multiple military bases and colleges.

He said that Bryan County will contain three times the number of seniors by 2030 due to a constant flow of retirees migrating to Bryan County.

He also explored the potential for a large number of businesses to come to Bryan County. He said the reasoning behind this is due to the county’s close proximity to the international airports, ports and interstate.

Toma said there's room for the anticipated growth, stating that, "In South Bryan, there are huge tracts of land that will become available soon."

He added that the land is suitable for development from an environmental and economical perspective.

Toma also stressed the importance of planning by city and county officials as the anticipated growth progresses.

"This enormous potential growth could be a planning nightmare if not managed properly," Toma said. "Planning for growth is crucial to preserve quality of life."

Toma went on to show a slide of a neighborhood that was attractively populated with trees and acreage, with a second slide featuring neither quality. "I have seen a vision of the future for Chatham County," Toma said in reference to the neighborhood without trees.

He added that the more attractive slide is indicative of the desired development of that Bryan officials should encourage.

He also encouraged officials to utilize comprehensive planning, align infrastructure plans (road, water and sewer), avoid low quality retail development and consider increasing professional planning staff.

On the topic of home sales, Toma said that, on average, Bryan County homes feature more bedrooms than Chatham homes and are worth their average value of $250,000.

He added that the Richmond Hill area was one of five Savannah area neighborhoods that had recorded sales of 5,780 homes between 2000-2005.

The other four were Ardsley Park, Georgetown, Skidaway Island and Windsor Forest.

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